Cleaning and maintaining a rotary valve can be a pain. A conventional valve may take as long as eight hours to service, with much of that time taken up in removing the valve, dismantling it, and removing various components. Due to this complicated and time-consuming process, certain manufacturers looked for ways in which a rotary valve could be more quickly disassembled and reassembled. One of the more popular solutions involved putting the rotary valve on rails; This allows operators to easily pull the entire rotor out from its casing, truncating the average time needed for servicing to less than an hour. 

Besides speeding the process, rail systems allow easy access to the internal parts of a rotary valve. This helps manufacturers ensure that their equipment stays clean and well-maintained, as well as aiding them in following the codes and standards of regulatory agencies like the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Rotary valves are integral to many industrial processing systems, and the easier they are to service, the more efficient a manufacturer’s processes will be.

Improved Rotary Valve Cleaning & Maintenance

On average, maintenance or cleaning of conventional rotary valves can take up to eight hours. This significantly increases downtime, costing both time and money, so speeding up servicing a rotary valve helps manufacturers become more efficient. Cleaning a standard valve involves removing the machinery from production, including its internal components, which will often involve removing countless nuts and bolts. 

Rotary valve rail systems don’t require disassembly of the whole machine, enabling operators access to the internal components in seconds. Because they’re built to speed servicing, some rotary valves on rails also feature a quick-release system that involves simply removing a few t-bolts. Besides saving several hours of downtime during cleaning or maintenance operations, rail systems also enable manufacturers to follow hygiene and safety requirements better.

Hygiene Requirements: The USDA, FDA & Rotary Valve Servicing

A minimal level of cleaning is required in food processing applications, according to the FDA, if processing will later require sufficient heat to kill off microbes. However, a more extensive process is required for applications like conveying dried milk powder or other types of food powder. Applications such as these that require regular cleaning of a rotary valve are made easier and experience less downtime if the valve is easily detachable.

The exact frequency of cleaning necessary depends on the product, with dry cleaning recommended as part of the USDA’s mid-level hygiene requirements for cleaning rotary valves. For manufacturers to meet these more stringent requirements, the USDA suggests using a detachable rotary valve on rails to facilitate cleaning and maintenance. Along with other recommendations, rail systems ease the disassembly and reassembly of the rotary valve while also making this process safer.

Safety Requirements: OSHA & Rotary Valve Servicing

Sliding rail systems provide a safer work environment: since the rotors are decoupled from the drive, they are no longer able move and potentially hurt workers once they slide out. They can also be more safely withdrawn to keep operators or maintenance personnel from injury while servicing occurs, particularly for larger valves. These rail systems additionally allow maintenance personnel to keep it stable during servicing and more accurately align the rotor once servicing has been completed.

Though well-suited for applications requiring regular inspection or cleaning, they can also be used in other applications. Like standard rotary valves, they can be customized to handle a wide range of materials, including abrasive materials. Cleaning or inspecting a valve’s internal implements is much easier when it slides easily on a rail. In addition to these factors, rotary valve rail systems allow operators to clean equipment between production runs, resulting in less downtime. This helps manufacturers comply with all the safety legislation required for rotary valves used in processing bulk materials. 

Rail systems for rotary valves make it easier to: 

  • Check clearances between the rotor, endplate, and the rotor and housing.
  • Ensure air can properly flow through the rotary valve and doesn’t clog with dust.
  • Inspect, replace, or repair shaft seals, rotors, bearings, and other parts to maintain proper tolerances and prevent material buildup.
  • Look for material buildup around outboard bearings and other parts of the valve.

Following USDA, OSHA,  & FDA Rotary Valve Regulations & Recommendations

Speed, hygiene, and safety are the primary reasons manufacturers should adopt rotary valves with rail systems. Prater Industries makes a series of rotary valves with rails called its Quick-Take-Apart series.

Prater’s Quick-Take-Apart rotary valves offer the following advantages:

  • Access to the rotary valve without the need for tools.
  • Components are CNC machined with precise clearances.
  • Disassembles quickly and effortlessly for inspection, along with unblocking jams.
  • Features direct drive design without pinch points and with fewer moving components.
  • Higher load capacity than that of competitors.
  • Protects against damage to and injury from the dropped rotor.
  • Rotor and rail design that self-centers to make reassembly easier and quicker, minimizing downtime.

Learn more about Prater’s rotary valves on rails and other equipment used to process bulk materials by contacting our experts today.